National Geographic : 2018 Oct
EMBARK | THE BIG IDEA Hope, Noted Anne Lamott is the author of nine New York Times best sellers, including Some Assembly Required, Bird by Bird, and Help, Thanks, Wow. Her new book—Almost Everything: Notes on Hope— comes out this month. She lives in California with her partner, Neal, and dog, Lady Bird. I WISH I HAD A MAGIC WAND AND COULD MAKE PEOPLE IN POWER BELIEVE IN CLIMATE SCIENCE, BUT I DON’T. I DO, HOWEVER, HAVE GOOD SHOES IN WHICH TO MARCH FOR SCIENCE AND SANITY. Yousafzai, Bill Gates and the student activists of Parkland, Florida; anyone committed to public health, teachers, and all those aging-hippie folk singer types who galvanized the early work of decon- taminating the Hudson River. You could say that river cleanup was child’s play compared with the melting of the ice caps—and I would thank you for sharing and get back to doing what is possible. Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it. We take the action—soup kitchens, creek resto- ration, mentoring—and then the insight follows: that by showing up with hope to help others, I’m guaranteed that hope is present. Then my own hope increases. By creating hope for others, I end up awash in the stuff. We create goodness in the world, and that gives us hope. We plant bulbs in the cold, stony dirt of winter and our aging arthritic fingers get nicked, but we just do it, and a couple of months later life blooms—as daffodils, paperwhites, tulips. Hope is sometimes a decision that we won’t bog down in analysis paralysis. We show up in waders or with checkbooks. We send money to India, and the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and to Uncle Ed’s GoFundMe account for his surgery. YOU WANT HOPE? In India you see families waking up on hard, dusty streets and the poorest moms combing their kids’ hair for school. School is hope. Closer to home you see a teenager recover from a massive brain bleed and head off to a college for kids with special needs—not only alive but carrying a backpack full of books and supplies, and lunch. (Lunch gives me hope.) You saw someone, maybe yourself or your child, get and stay sober. You read that the number of mountain gorillas in central Africa has risen con- sistently over the past few years. One had barely dared to hope, and yet? If this keeps up, we’ll be up to our necks in mountain gorillas. We might hope that this or that will happen, and be disappointed—but when we instead have hope in the resilience and power of the human spirit, in innovation, laughter, and nature, we won’t be. I wish I had a magic wand and could make people in power believe in climate science, but I don’t. I do, however, have good shoes in which to march for science and sanity. (Sanity: Is that so much to hope for? Never!) I see people rising up to their highest, most generous potential in every direction in which I remember to look, when I remember to look up and around and not at my aching feet. My friend Olivia hates having cystic fibrosis, and every moment of life is a little harder than it is for people without the disease. But most of the time she’s the happiest person I’m going to see on any given day. She is either in gratitude or in the recording studio, where she is recording her second album of songs she wrote and plays on guitar. The engineer hits the mute button when she needs to cough, which is fairly frequently. She got a terrifying diagnosis 23 years ago, but with her community’s support, she and her parents kept hoping that she would some- how be OK or at least OK-ish—and then voilà, the successful clinical trial of a miracle drug. Children pour out of school labs equipped with the science and passion to help restore estuaries and watersheds. Church groups pitch in to build water wells to nourish developing-world villages. As John Lennon said, “Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.” This has always been true before; we can decide to hope that it will be again. Sometimes hope is a radical act, sometimes a qui- etly merciful response, sometimes a second wind, or just an increased awareness of goodness and beauty. Maybe you didn’t get what you prayed for, but what you got instead was waking to the momentousness of life, the power of loving hearts. You hope to wake up in time to see the dawn, the first light, a Technicolor sunrise, but the early morning instead is cloudy with mist. Still, as you linger, the ridge stands majestically black against a milky sky. And if you pay attention, you’ll see the setting of the moon that illumined us all as we slept. And you see a new day dawn.